Northumberland children help kick-start Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal

Children from St Mary's School, Belford, join servicemen and Royal British Legion beneficiaries to launch the 2015 North East Poppy Appeal. Picture by Jeffrey Pardoen
Children from St Mary's School, Belford, join servicemen and Royal British Legion beneficiaries to launch the 2015 North East Poppy Appeal. Picture by Jeffrey Pardoen

Pupils from a north Northumberland school joined military personnel, veterans and civic dignitaries to celebrate the opening of a new information centre and kick-start this year's Poppy Appeal.

Youngsters from St Mary's School in Belford helped mark the opening of The Royal British Legion’s new advice and information centre in the heart of Newcastle.

The centre, at 100 Grainger Street, is one of 16 new centres that the Legion has opened on high streets in major towns and cities across the UK to bring the charity’s services closer to its beneficiaries. It will be supported by a network of community outreach hubs as part of the Legion's biggest transformation in its 94-year history.

In a complete change of how the charity delivers its frontline support services, the centre will offer a welcoming space for Service personnel and veterans to get practical help and advice, and for members of the public to find out more about the wide range of services and community activities provided by the Legion.

The opening also launched the start of this year’s Poppy Appeal which is aiming to raise £1.5million across the North East. The Belford children sang with Roger Davies to perform his song Wear Your Poppy with Pride, proceeds of which will go to the Poppy Appeal.

Marcus Hawthorn, the Legion’s area manager for the North East, said: “The Royal British Legion was established to help those returning from the First World War. A century on from the start of that conflict the Legion’s role remains as contemporary and as vital as it has ever been supporting today’s generation of Armed Forces families and veterans. This new centre will allow us to provide help and advice to the Armed Forces community how and when they need it, helping them live on independently.

“We know the total number of the Armed Forces community is set to decline, yet the demand for Legion support is predicted to increase, as the population ages and our beneficiaries’ needs become more complex. Through our welfare work we can help the British Armed Forces, veterans and their families to live a more hopeful future.”

The driver behind the change in the Legion’s way of working came from research conducted in 2005 and 2010 into the demographic and long-term needs of the Armed Forces community. Respondents said it was difficult to find the help they needed, either because of not knowing who to go to and what services were on offer, or because this information was hard to access.

There are now three main points through which the Armed Forces community can access the Legion’s help: a comprehensive website, with live web chat, offering information on Legion services and where to go for further support, a Freephone central contact centre open seven days a week from 8am-8pm, and the network of 16 advice and information centres.

The Royal British Legion’s work is encapsulated within its ethos: Live On – To the memory of the fallen and the future of the living.